STAYING FOCUSED

Okay, so this is my new normal. That’s what the counselors are saying and the pastor here is echoing. In other words, get used to it. They say I will get out (eventually) and have to stay focused to keep out of trouble and pass the time. If I give up or get off track, it will just add to the time and misery, they counsel, so stay in the game. Well, to some extent I have.

And not. I am in a four man room with the ‘lead’ man being Arthur, a lifer who’s been down 26 years. I cannot imagine going through that much in here with no real idea if or when I might ever get out. He seems to take it well, but then what is his alternative? He reads the Bible daily and I see him praying. He also snores, as does one other in the room which I am not used to as yet. Worse, he plays his radio all night. Yep, all night. It’s one thing to fall asleep to soft music, it’s another to wake up to it and not be able to get past it and fall back asleep. He has said he would turn it down but I hear no difference. A couple of times after he falls asleep and I lay there awake, I go turn it off while he snores. Ultimately in the morning when I roust for count it is usually back on. The pressure I feel being in this situation is mounting I feel. “Pressure bursts pipes” says Arthur. Sooner or later he is correct.

He has taken me to the Protestant worship on Sunday evening which is truly wonderful. There is singing, praying, sharing and a good message usually from the pastor. When the Spanish band takes over the music really gets you going. The messages seem to center around Jesus accepting us where we are and forgiving ourselves so we can move forward, a familiar theme it seems from those who have counseled me. Again, easier said than done. I want to believe that God has forgiven me, I just cannot forgive myself for all that I have done.

So church is wonderful, but it is not something that makes me feel ‘normal’ yet. It’s different from what I am used to, and while I get into it and loose myself for the time I am there, I don’t forget I am in prison. The only thing that truly does that for me is basketball.

I’ve been blessed to have been able to play my whole life and do it better than some but not as good as many. When I first got here, I immediately went to the outside court to play and shoot around. Surprisingly, no one else had checked a ball out and I found myself shooting alone many afternoons. I practiced many shots, ran like a crazy man full court and enjoyed myself for the almost hour I had there. One day it was even sprinkling as I did this but I was not deterred. Even the uneven concrete where grass grew up did not keep me from loosing myself in two on two or three on three when I was lucky enough to get games. At first they left me out, thinking what’s this old geezer doing out here. But once in, I was able to demonstrate some good reasons for picking me up earlier.

I also did something most did not do very well – pass the ball. But I did lose myself in those games, sorely hoping they would never end as it truly was something I knew and could get lost in. I may as well have been in any gym or outside courts I’ve played on because my mind kept me focused.

I was also fortunate enough to get put on a team in the summer league that was still going on when I arrived. It also turns out some guys were watching me from their windows as I played alone and word spread about an OT (old timer) who played and had a pretty good shot. The league is a trip too. Well, a literal trip as I rolled my knee running on that uneven concrete and am out for a couple of weeks with what I think is torn cartilage. Nevertheless, I so love the game it keeps me mentally away from the heartache I am living and gives me something to look forward to everyday. I shoot off to the side and am taking it easy right now, hoping to get back soon, and staying focused on being focused in the moment.

I went to the infirmary when it first happened and learned what most already knew. Don’t bother. A couple of ibuprofen is the treatment for just about everything in here. Just getting to the doc is difficult to accomplish, but we were luckier than many facilities as there is a hospital here with real doctors and nurses. In fact my roommate Arthur comes here three times a week for his dialysis, something he’d have to continue for the rest of his life it appears. (But he can’t get parole because he might abscond. Where would he go between dialysis appointments?)

But getting any type of wrap or knee brace is out of the question right now. Guess they think I’ll hide weapons in it. I can order one to be sent in but by the time it arrives I will be better anyway. I cannot have my wife send in one of the ones I have from previous tweaks as it has to be brand spanking new. So I’ll take it easy and see how it feels. At least that is the plan.

Reading can also keep my mind occupied. My work is easy and leaves a good deal of time for me to do other things, so getting lost in a good book helps. My grievance office is right next door to the library and I am getting to know the staff there pretty well too. Mostly non-fiction right now. Hey, I am living what I consider a fictional life, certainly unreal to me. Only new books can be sent in to us from the outside, so I’ll exhaust the library for now.

Whatever I do to pass the time never seems to make it go fast enough save the basketball games. Those 4 quarters pass so quickly I truly rue the final horn, win or lose. Concentrating for those 32 minutes really takes my mind off the figurative chains I have here. If you’ve never been involved seriously in some type of sports you may not comprehend what I mean.
So between work, church and basketball I am managing to survive in my Jumanji world by just staying focused on what I am doing.

Praise God!

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